Treasury seeks to overturn Labor Court ruling to suspend port tenders during union talks

Labor Court postpones possible port strike for at least a month, but economic repercussions of pulling tenders released in July could potentially be more damaging.

July 31, 2013 03:00
1 minute read.
Cranes are seen at the port of Haifa.

Cranes are seen at the port of Haifa 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

The Finance Ministry will petition the High Court of Justice over Monday night’s National Labor Court ruling that the ministry must suspend tenders to build private ports while it negotiates with unions.

The Labor Court ruled that ports must remain open until September 1 as the government and the Histadrut labor federation negotiate over reforms that would see two private ports built in Ashdod and Haifa to compete with the current ports.

Although the Labor Court postponed a possible port strike for at least a month, which at face value is a victory for the reform effort, the economic repercussions of pulling the tenders released in July could potentially be more damaging.

“The state stands by its right to establish new ports to increase competition, lower the cost of living and develop the economy,” the ministry said in a statement late Monday night.

It would rely on the precedent of a ruling on telecommunications reforms, which successfully brought down cellular phone prices through increased competition.

The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, which filed the petition to the Labor Court, praised the decision to put off a strike, but also criticized the ruling.

“We believe the court erred in placing the interest of the workers at a higher level than the interests of developing the economy and preparing infrastructure for foreign trade,” the federation said.

Though the port workers might be affected, it argued, damages incurred indirectly through the elimination of a monopoly should not be subject to strikes.

“Every rationale raised in the court’s decision still cannot reach the level of justifying it interfering with the economic development and the future of the Israeli economy,” the business group said. “These are issues that are the sole purview of of the Israeli government.”

Transportation Minister Israel Katz struck a similar chord, vowing to move forward with reforms despite possible confrontations with the unions further down the line.

“We will not build new ports so that Hasson and Turgeman will control them,” he said, referring to Alon Hasson and Meir Turgeman, who head the unions at the Ashdod and Haifa ports. “We will not pay them millions in bribes for their consent, as [occurred] in the past with no benefit.”

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